A Guide to Pre-Employment Drug Tests

There are many ways employers can ensure the health and safety of their staff, like conducting fire drills and disinfecting high-touch surfaces. One common way that employers use to increase the safety of their employees is the pre-employment drug test. Drug and alcohol abuse costs employers 740 billion dollars a year. These costs include medical costs related to the abuse, a loss of productivity, increased health care costs overall, and more. 

What is a Pre-employment Drug test?

Employers use pre-employment drug tests to discover if a prospective hire uses illegal substances or abuses prescription medicine. It’s also common for a drug test to be administered after an employee has taken a long break from work, perhaps for medical reasons. This is called a pre-placement drug test. Many businesses require job candidates to pass a drug test before they can be hired at the company. These tests are extremely important in industries where there are physical safety risks. While many drugs can be tested for, drug tests typically screen for the following illicit drugs:

  • Methamphetamines (meth, speed, ecstasy)
  • THC, or marijuana (weed, pot)
  • Cocaine (coke, crack)
  • Opiates (heroin, opium, codeine, morphine)
  • Phencyclidine (PCP, angel dust)

Types of Drug Tests

There are many ways to test a person for drugs. The most common testing types are saliva, blood, urine, and hair tests. Urine is the most common type of drug test and is the one used by government organizations. Compared to the more expensive hair test, urine tests only detect drug use within the last 5-10 days. Hair tests will show alcohol and drug use for the last three months. One of the most accurate tests is a blood test, however, its window of detection is very short and shows use during the last few hours. It’s also expensive and painful and many people have a fear of needles, making blood testing impractical. Also, with its short time window, a negative blood test isn’t as accurate a marker for drug and alcohol use, making it less reliable as far as works safety purposes.

Why Employers Require Pre-Employment Drug Tests

Drug and alcohol abuse is known to cause safety risks. For businesses that prioritize safety, a pre-employment drug test increases safety for all of their employees. This is especially important in industries that require the use of mechanical equipment, or other more risky work environments. The requirement of a drug test may cause those who use to avoid applying for the job in the first place. And, any positive result allows the business the option of passing on offering employment to that applicant, keeping its working environment safer.

The cost of drug and alcohol abuse to employers is staggering. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), drug use may increase workplace injury claims by five times. Almost 50% of every workers’ compensation claim is related to substance abuse in the workplace. When a worker is impaired, they are 3.5 times more likely to have an accident at work. Employees who abuse substances are 2.5 times more likely to miss eight days (or more) of work each year. And, finally, substance abuse may lower productivity by 33%. 

Now that we’ve established why employers use pre-employment drug tests, let's discuss the legal side of the matter.

  • Legal basis of employee drug testing

There is no one-size-fits-all answer for if drug testing is legal in your state. The rules vary from state to state, so employers must do their due diligence to ensure their compliance with state laws regarding pre-employment drug testing. There are a few general guidelines to get you started:

  1. Employers must inform job applicants that a clean drug test is required for employment.
  2. Employers must use the same drug test for all applicants applying to the same job. 
  3. The drug tests need to be done at a laboratory that is certified by the state. 

How to Deploy Pre-Employment Drug Testing

Here are the steps for implementing a pre-employment drug test. It is recommended that businesses seek legal counsel before completing any of these steps. 

  • Write down your policy and procedure guide for pre-employment drug tests.
  • Give written notice to your employees about the new pre-employment drug test policy.
  • Obtain written consent from applicants before they are tested. 

Pre-Employment Drug Testing from BioFunctional Health Solutions

BioFunctional Health Solutions (BHS) offers pre-employment drug testing at its health centers. The testing is done by qualified health care practitioners in a professional environment. Their health professionals are well-versed in helping businesses like yours develop their testing policies and procedures and create substance abuse programs for the workplace. Reach out to BHS to get started today!

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